The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 18, 2009

Senator wants to end ‘effective ban’ on nuclear power plants

CHARLESTON — Nuclear power might be in the vanguard of West Virginia’s energy future, but a tiny line in law known as Article 27-A is keeping investors from even talking seriously about the first plant.

And to Senate Economic Development Chairman Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, that “effective ban” is inconsistent with West Virginia’s zeal to be an energy leader.

McCabe is the lone sponsor of SB240 that would erase the controversial article from state code and open the door for some heavy talk about building plants.

Not that one is likely to spring up right away.

In fact, McCabe said, the reality is a plant could be one to two decades into the future. But at the same time, he stressed, coal remains vital.

“What I’m suggesting is we go out and try to educate and convince our colleagues regionally and nationally that coal is good, that we can do a lot of solid work with coal in meeting future energy needs,” he said.

“It is inconsistent at the same time for us to be one of half a dozen states in the country that effectively bans the consideration of construction of nuclear power plants in our state.”

After much wrangling, his bill was put on hold, with Senate Energy, Industry and Mining Chairman Mike Green, D-Raleigh, naming a subcommittee to look into it.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, who voiced concerns that striking Article 27-A might open the door to unregulated plants, chairs the panel. Serving with him will be Sens. Joseph Minard, D-Harrison, Frank Deem, R-Wood, and Bob Williams, D-Taylor.

“I think there is concern about the health and safety on any power generation,” he said.

Rather than strike the article totally, Jenkins suggested a modification that reflects the modern experiences with nuclear power since the provision in the code was adopted more than a decade ago.

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